There’s a collective intake of breath in the intimate dining room when everyone opens their menus.
Fanning out like piano accordions, each menu’s glowing white light captures guests’ faces in a state of childlike wonder as they scratch their heads and wonder what it is they’re meant to eat.
Eat the pages of the menu? It’s rather absurd, but then so is the nonsensical and satirical movement Le Salon DadA is based upon.
Being familiar with Marc Kuzma’s work at El'Circo at Slide, I entered Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salon with a fair idea of what to expect.
But I digress… Kuzma’s resulting night, (which will set you back $140/head) is based upon Cabaret Voltaire, a Swiss enclave of artists escaping the First World War. DadA was anti-establishment, anti-reason and anti-logic. DadA was the antidote to the bourgeois capitalist interests that the artists believed had led people into war in the first place. Following this line, our first course takes curative form as a wartime first aid kid with tongue depressor, bandages and a petri dish containing a smooth French mushroom parfait topped with sauternes jelly.
Scraped onto crackers, it’ll sustain you through your cocktail construction – the recipe and ingredients are in your bucket.
With shiso leaf-infused vodka, nettle liqueur and pomegranate cordial, it’s a tangy, slightly more sophisticated Cosmopolitan with little blasts of sweetness when the pearls of passionfruit and lime pop on your tongue.
The rest of your boozing is done in the usual fashion, with many wines - including the 2017 Cave de Turckheim Pinot Blanc ($70/bottle) we selected - available by glass, carafe and full bottle.
The fresh, dry white wine proves easy to enjoy through some on-stage art that sees a semi-nude model enhanced with the f-holes from a cello, and some at-the-table card tricks. It’s a multimedia affair, with German expressionist film, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920), playing on screens placed throughout the dining room. Seen through the eyes of an asylum patient, the film may leave you wondering what’s real and what’s not.
Contortionist Jade Twist continues our surrealist descent by wearing a black zentai suit with eyes and lips in all the wrong places.
Tying herself in knots until she looks like a human pretzel, Twist makes it hard to know which way is up, and which direction way is forward.
It's a perfect segue to a course based upon The Persistence of Memory (1931), arguably Salvador Dali’s most famous surrealist work. From the edge of a martini glass, his melting pocket watch drips in cracker form to accompany a well-spiced cold capsicum and tomato soup.
Your soup is poured from a vessel that is itself a nod to Dali’s 1972 piece, Marilyn Monroe, shown up on the screens.
It’s this attention to detail that makes Kuzma’s night so intellectually rich for art-lovers, with clever details like Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel (1913) in the stairwell on the way up to the dining room. Even the table setting is done in the style of DadA, down to a DadA print cloth serviette. Without wanting to give it all away, the next course – the only hot course - a rainbow trout roulade, is a nod to Joan Miró. Everything on the splattered abstract plate is edible, down to the crisp fish bones.
On the stage, the inimitable Shauna Jensen is clad in a thematic ‘singing fish’ (one of Miro’s recurring motifs) kaftan, as she belts out Ella Jenkins' Wade in the Water.
Jensen returns later in the evening with This Is Me from The Greatest Showman. It's guaranteed to leave you uplifted – from her talented lips the power ballad’s lyrics sound inspirational rather than twee.
Kuzma has been booking cabaret acts for decades and has a real eye for talent, as you’ll no doubt discover across the night.
Le Salon DadA is a rich and punny, multimedia experience that will appeal to all of your senses.
“Just like the painting, there is no confusion, it is designed to put in your mouth,” Kuzma finishes.
Le Salon DadA takes place on Sunday evenings at Claire's Kitchen at le Salon. Bookings are essential.
Claire's Kitchen at le Salon
35 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9283 1891